Librarians give old books new life when space becomes scarce

By Kirsten Mahon/nw/multimedia editor

To avoid destroying library books deemed old, SE Campus librarian Lillian Cano constructed a wall of books with colors arranged in a rainbow.  Photo by Taurence Williams/The Collegian

To avoid destroying library books deemed old, SE Campus librarian Lillian Cano constructed a wall of books with colors arranged in a rainbow. Photo by Taurence Williams/The Collegian

When library books age, it’s up to the librarians to save them — or artists, in some cases.

NE library director Mark Dolive has trouble letting books “get chewed up” when it’s time to weed out the dusty novels.

“When you buy new books, you may have to get rid of books,” he said.

Libraries have limited space, so the process of elimination is complicated. Librarians rely on content, age and relevance to determine which books need the “chew” and which ones get to stay. Historical books normally stay longer while health, science and technology textbooks must be consistently replaced, Dolive said.

“Technology can go out of date,” he said. “For health programs, it’s no more than five years.”

Treatments and dosages that medical students study change constantly, he said. Older textbooks can suggest drugs that are no longer on the market or even medical treatments that have since been deemed too dangerous or illegal. This also prevents TCC libraries from donating books the same way the rest of the college can donate computers or furniture.

In Dolive’s office, he keeps a couple of titles he’s managed to rescue. One of them is Animals with Human Faces by Beryl Rowland. The book, originally published in the 1970s, explains 57 different animals to whom humans have attached some type of symbolic meaning. The book made it to about the age of 40 before its shelf life wore out.

“It might not be appropriate for community college students,” he said, adding that college juniors and seniors are more likely to check that type of book out. “But we may have some brilliant students who want to read it.”

Librarians consider potential shelf life of books when they buy, Dolive said. They use popular reading lists and user recommendations to help determine what investments they need to make. The most popular books checked out at TCC libraries are reserved textbooks.

During the summer, Dolive said, NE Campus will normally go through its weeding process. They fill up blue recycling bins with dead books, and those get carted off to the recycling compactor.

Mike Tankersley, district assistant director of facility operations, said every campus except for TR now has its own trash and recycling compactors.

Once the books are “chewed up,” they go to a recycling facility along with all the other rubble of cans, plastic, glass and paper.

Libraries scattered across the globe have used old library books to build something stunning.

SE librarian Lily Cano brought the trend to TCC with a colorful wall of books arranged into a rainbow.

“It’s better than throwing them away,” she said.

Other SE Campus librarians use book folding, where pages of the books are folded into visually pleasing designs, to liberate the books from the compactor.

“If students want to keep these books, they should check them out!” Cano said, laughing.

Other than the reserved textbooks, graphic novels are the hottest items at SE Campus currently, but that could change in the future, she said.

What was popular five years ago is now beginning to wither away on the shelves.

Students can go to the SE Campus library blog to look at what other libraries are doing to resuscitate untouched hardbacks.

Visit hub.tccd.edu/southeastcampuslibrary.